Ag Business, Plant and Animal Sciences Department Chari, BYU-Idaho
I love Devotional! I try to be here each Tuesday, in fact I sit right back there in the bleachers each week. I can honestly say you look much better from that vantage point.
Several years ago after the first time that we had met in the Conference Center in April of 2000, President Hinkley spoke of the beautiful walnut pulpit that had been built from a tree he had planted 36 years earlier. He said he was grateful to have a small touch of himself in that great hall where the voice of prophets would go out to all the world, he was sentimental as he did so, and it made you pay attention to the beautiful pulpit and more importantly the wonderful council that would be given from it. A short time later a dear friend of mine was in the Salt Lake area and wanted to see the Conference Center. He and his wife parked the car out front and there was no one around so they went up to the door and found that it was open so they went in. They walked up front and went up on the stand. My friend stood behind the wonderful walnut pulpit that President Hinkley had spoken so passionately about. He stood behind it and ran his hands reverently over the wood work, he felt the power of that wonderful place, and looked out over a vast unseen congregation. As he stood there lost in his thoughts and the reverie of the moment, a security guard came in and saw them there. He ran up the aisle to where they stood and loudly proclaimed, “Hey you! You don’t belong here!”
My dreams the last few weeks have been much like my friends experience. I am standing here at this wonderful pulpit and look out into the eyes of a vast seen congregation of young people, and up the aisle I see Brother Garth Gunderson from security , run up and announce in front of everyone, “Hey you! You don’t belong here!”
That is what I have chosen to speak to you today about, standing in Holy places, regardless of what the world around you might say.
With that introduction I would like to ask you a question. Have any of you ever had a bad day? Raise your hand if you think you have had a bad day.
A number of years ago my brother called me and as we visited, I asked him that same question, he said he had had better days. He then asked me how my day was and I told him that I no longer had bad days; of course he wanted an explanation.
That day some unusual things happened. I was at work trying to keep pace with a busy schedule. I had just finished my morning surgeries and hurried to exam room one to see my first patient, in our practice there is a small slot in the door that holds the medical records where the technicians write their findings as they interview clients and examine the patient. Today the card was empty. That was strange and as that fact was beginning to register, something else out of the ordinary happened. The door softly closed behind me, and the technician who normally followed me into the room was on the other side of it. There was a scruffy white and black dog sitting on the exam table, you have never seen such an emaciated mess in all your life. He had one red swollen eye and what looked to be a large dirt clod on his head. His coat was dirty and unkempt and he was very gaunt.
Having no idea what we were doing, and learning only that the dogs name was Cholo from the record, I asked, “What are we doing for Cholo today?” For a moment no one answered, there appeared to be a whole family there, grandparents a mother and father and several kids, and they all looked at the floor. They were Hispanic and as is often the case an older woman touched a young girl on the shoulder and she began to speak. “We had Cholo put to sleep a week ago.” With that flat statement my gut tightened slightly, I could envision that we had put Cholo to sleep a week ago and that somehow we had not done a very good job, and he had come back to life, you know that can be considered as one of the ultimate failures. That is a hard decision for people to make and if it had gone poorly, I could imagine that they were not happy, so tentatively, I asked, “Did we put him to sleep?” They smiled and the little girl said “no”. Now relieved but still confused I prompted them to continue. This time the mother in broken English began to explain. “A week ago Cholo ran into the road and was hit by a car, it didn’t kill him but he was badly hurt.” “His eyeball was popped out and his skull was fractured, we could see his brain!” “We knew he could not live and so my husband’s friend took him into the desert and put him to sleep.” I asked, “How did he put him to sleep?” She answered that he had shot him five times. I laughed and commented, “He must not have been a very good shot.” “Oh no”, came the reply, “Cholo was dead, and we buried him in a shallow grave.”
This was becoming more bizarre by the moment. Still perplexed, I ask, “How did he get home.” She said, “An hour ago the phone rang and my husband’s boss said your dog is out here and he doesn’t look very good, you better come and get him. We tried to explain that it could not be our dog that he had been dead for a week, but he said he was sure it was our dog and that we had better come down. It was Cholo and so here we are.” Still not sure what they wanted, I ask, “What do you want us to do, put him to sleep?” The mother became excited and began to shake her head, “No, no, Cholo is a good dog, after all of this, he came home to us. We want you to fix him.”
Cholo had had a bad day. He set a new standard for bad days. He had been hit by a car, had his skull fractured, his eyeball popped out of its socket. He had been taken out into the desert away from his family and shot five times. Then to end this bad day, he was buried alive. So with this as our standard, I would submit that I have never had a bad day and neither have most of you.
These were poor people so I began to explain that we would want to take x-rays and run some tests to see what would be best for Cholo. The mother looked at her hands and said “We only have $1200.00.” I am sure this was all the money they had in the world. I told them to have a seat and we would see how extensive his injuries were and then we could talk of the costs involved.
I really expected to find very little when we x-rayed Cholo, but when the pictures were developed, he had been shot five times in the head and neck. I don’t know how he was alive, but he was. The dirt clod on the head turned out to be a large laceration and a fracture into his frontal sinus. What they thought was the brain was actually the sinus cavity. We cleaned it up and sutured his wounds. The eye was very red and hemorrhagic; it had been proptosed and because of the loss of blood it had sunk back in to the socket and his vision was fine, even though the eye was very blood shot. Cholo required very little attention, a few sutures and some antibiotics and pain killers. He was a modern day miracle.
Many of you may think that these folks must have been cruel monsters to have put their friend through so much. But if you examine what they did, they were trying to help, not hurt. They knew that Cholo was hurt and that he was suffering, so they sought to alleviate that suffering.
Life is like that. Many times well meaning people try to help make things better, but inadvertently they make things worse. Something is said, offense is taken or help is offered and injury occurs. Once the hurt happens, then it falls to us to decide what we will do with it. Pres. Faust gave us this council.
“Most of us need time to work through pain and loss. We can find all manner of reasons for postponing forgiveness. One of these reasons is waiting for the wrongdoers to repent before we forgive them. Yet such a delay causes us to forfeit the peace and happiness that could be ours. The folly of rehashing long-past hurts does not bring happiness.” (President James E. Faust, “The Healing Power of Forgiveness,” Ensign, May 2007, 67-69)
Many of us feel that one day is much the same as the next. We allow with that feeling a sense of monotony and of the mundane. Sometimes we even believe that we have had a “bad” day. Yet if we look at the scriptures, the Lord feels just the opposite, as He uses phrases like, “upon this day”, and “the day of the Lord”, “there cometh a day upon which…” Over a thousand of these types of statements leads me to believe that the Lord accounts each day as special and as an opportunity to teach and lift us closer to Him.
After 9/11 President Hinkley gathered us together and gave us this sage advice from the scriptures, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place” (Matthew 24:15) So when hard things come, desolating things, we have been told to stand fast in the holy place. I view this as a holy place.
We think of holy places such as the church or our homes, and especially the temple, but a holy place is any where the Lord would place us. And if with our agency, we choose, we then are standing in the holy place the lord is talking about. Now I am not suggesting that we not be vigilant in our homes or in our church responsibilities, or that regular temple attendance is not a vital part of what we do and who we are. Quite the contrary, the scriptures teach us of the weightier matters of the law:
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” (Matthew 23:23)
And so, these things are expected of us to do, and in the doing, we will be able to draw on the enabling power of the atonement that will allow us to stand when the abomination of desolation is manifest in our own lives.
We learn a lot from this unusual day that Cholo had. The people that meant to help, made things worse. But in the end they were willing to give all that they had to make things right. They recognized that they had been the source of pain and injury, but they also recognized that they had the power to help Cholo when he allowed them to by his returning. The Savior spoke of these circumstances when he taught;
“Nevertheless, ye shall not cast him out of your synagogues, or your places of worship, for unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and Ishall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them.” (3 Nephi 18:32)
We have the power to help those who have lost their way.
Secondly, Cholo, when he came to himself, the first thing he did was to come back home. Most of us are that way, or should be. Think of the prodigal son, after his inheritance was squandered,”
“…when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father” (Luke 15: 17-18)
We want to go home, but oft times, pride gets in the way, we suffer until we become sufficiently humble to approach those we wish to be with. This happens in the church. Those whose testimonies of the truth are fragile have some well meaning person who may be trying to help them, but inadvertently cause some offense and they feel injured so they stay away, not realizing that they want to be healed. Christ illustrated this as he appeared to the ancient Nephites after rampant destruction and upheaval in the land, the people must have been reeling from injury and loss, as Christ was able to speak to them and have them understand he taught them.
“O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13)
We all want to return, and be healed, but many times we don’t yet realize that we are not whole. As this realization comes and we begin to soften, if we are surrounded by those who love, we will respond. The key is to surround them with love. A caring visiting teacher, a diligent home teacher, their respective assignments are to love these people, even when that love is unrequited. Charlie Brown put it this way, “Nothing takes the taste out of peanut butter quite like unrequited love.” I am sure some of you have had experience with this. So sometimes we are too hesitant to do our duty as it were, we are afraid of the bad taste that might come if we are rejected, but remember Cholo’s family, they were willing to give all that they had, if need be, to help Cholo. Should we do less?
We have been given all that we need to be successful in these assignments that come. I remember one of these opportunities while serving in the Cannery. I was standing by a conveyor belt watching it go by with dizzying results. One of the workers came up and informed me that a women from my ward had passed out and would I please go and check on her. When I arrived, they were loading her in an ambulance to take her to the hospital. They said she had been out for about thirty minutes. I asked if she had been given a blessing, they said no, but there was a Catholic Priest who had come with a friend, and that he had given her the last rites, but that no one had given her a blessing. I followed her to the hospital and with her husband, we gave her a blessing. It amazed me that with all of the faithful priesthood brethren there, no one had thought to give her a blessing. President Packer said we live far below our privileges. We need to be bolder in using the amazing spiritual gifts each of us are endowed with.
If we can remember that when we are on the Lord’s errand we are entitled to the Lord’s help, it will give us confidence and the knowledge that we never stand alone, for only He was called to stand alone. We can, by our choices, choose to stand alone, but were never called or required to do so.
“Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you…"
“Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come.” (D&C 68: 5-6)
Many of us believe that love cannot be genuine if it comes from an assignment, yet if we test it against the scriptures we are told:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Matthew 22:38-39)
The third thing that we learn from Cholo is to not stand in the middle of the road. Nothing good happens in the middle of the road.
The Lord tells us“I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: Iwould thou wert cold orhot.” (Revelations 3:15)
When we are given a blessing, whether in the form of a calling or an opportunity of an education or a job, we should not squander away these precious things, or as President Newdahl taught us, seed these things to someone else, referring to our agency. The Lord will help us: “Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (Hymns of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Be Thou Humble” 130)
It might be helpful for me to share a little of how I came, with my family, to stand in this holy place with you today. We lived in a small community in western Idaho; I was a partner in a successful veterinary practice. Our kids were growing and happy as they entered their last years of high school. As we served in our community, we established friendships and alliances. All was well. Then one day we got a seemingly innocent call from BYU–Idaho asking us to come and speak at a fireside. It sounded fun, a free meal and a night in a hotel. We accepted the invitation and spoke of the atonement. It was a warm and pleasant experience. While we were here they mentioned that they were going to hire a veterinarian and that we should apply. We thanked them and told them that we were happy where we were. We went home and with the rush of busy lives, largely forgot about the experience. Then came calls, careful calls, but regular, requesting just that we think about it, the hint that we pray about it. Over a two-year period, the calls continued and we began to pray and to ponder. We got no clear answer. Out of desperation, I talked to Elder Neal Andersen, he suggested that we try it and if it was what the Lord would have us do then doors would open and the path would be made clear, if not, there would be road blocks. So we moved ahead and doors did open and answers did come.
One day after the decision had been made, I sat pondering what all of this would mean to us, and as I was thus employed, the Holy Ghost spoke these words to my mind, “When thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”(Luke 22:32) These words came just as clearly and indelibly as if they had been audible. This took me back. I thought I was converted and that I was strengthening my brethren in the things that I was doing.
Then I remembered that the Lord had told Peter the same thing. It was this same Peter that when he met Jesus the first time was told, “Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is by interpretation, A stone.” (John 1:42) Translated into Greek or Latin, Cephas means Petra or Peter. At the very beginning, the Lord knew the character that Peter possessed and he spent the rest of his ministry teaching him. Peter was privileged over the next two years to witness many miracles at Jesus’ very feet. He saw many times the healing of the sick and the raising of the dead. He was there when Christ fed the multitudes with a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish. Christ sent him on a mission and commanded him to do these same things that he had witnessed firsthand. And yet he still lacked the conversion that Christ wished for him. When Christ declared himself to the multitudes, many became angry and left him, it must have been a sad moment for the Savior of the world, we’re told:
“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him."
“Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away?” (John 6: 66-67)
That is a question that each of us need to prepare for. For when our abomination of desolation comes, will we also go away, and walk no more with him, or will we, like Cholo, come home. Peter answered the question this way, “Lord, to whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68) And then he added these qualifiers, almost as if to give greater credence to his declaration. “And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.” (John 6:69)
It was Peter who asked, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seventimes? (Matthew 18: 21-22) There must have been some hurt or offence that prompted this question. Still the Savior patiently working with that impetuous Peter, like he does with each of us until we reach“the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13) taught him:
“I say not unto thee, until seventimes: but, until seventy timesseven.” (Matthew 18:22)
Forgiveness is for us, not for those who have offended us. You see it allows with the forgiveness the opportunity of always being able, like Cholo, to go home, it puts us in control. Peter was a good man, a great man, and still he did not yet possess all that Christ desired for him.
On another occasion,
“When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea, he asked his disciples, WhomdomensaythatI the Son of man am?”
“And they said, Some saythat thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.”
“He saith unto them, But whomsayyethatIam?”
“And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
“And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 16: 13-17)
Surely at this point, Peter had achieved the conversion that Christ desired for him. It must have gratified the Savior to see and hear the testimony that Peter bore without hesitation or the need to qualify his statement and yet there was still more for Peter.
Shortly before the Savior departed to the Garden of Gesthamane, he turned to Peter with great concern, fatherly concern, for him. And said, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat.” (Luke 22:31) It is significant that the Lord used his old name Simon and did not refer to him as the rock at this time.
“But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and whenthouart converted, strengthen thy brethren. Peter was taken back.
“And he said unto him, Lord, I am ready to go with thee, both into prison, and to death.” (Luke 22:33)
And yet the Lord persisted, “I tell thee, Peter, the cock shall not crow this day, before that thoushalt thrice deny that thou knowest me.” (Luke 22:34) Peter believed that nothing on earth could make this so, he was ready to give his life and yet the saying was true and Peter denied Christ three times in the agonizing hours that followed. After the last time he had denied Christ, the Savior passed near by him, and looked upon Peter, “And Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had said unto him, Before the cock crow, thoushalt deny me thrice. And Peter went out, and wept bitterly.” (Matthew 26:75)
His real strength had not yet come to him, and the Lord knew it. It would come but it would be born out of the silence of a long-suffering heart. You see this was Peter’s abomination of desolation, and out of it came the giant that we think of when we remember this ancient apostle.
Peter went about doing much good, he preached with the other apostles and on more than one occasion he was imprisoned and told never to preach in the name of Christ again, all of this done at the threat of death. They were imprisoned and set free by an angel who told them to go to the temple and preach there to the people, all the words of life. Again when it was discovered that they had escaped from prison they were taken and brought before the council, they were reminded that they were commanded not to preach in the name of Christ, to which Peter answered and testified,
“We ought to obey God rather than men.”
“The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree.”
“Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”
“And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” (Acts 5:29-32)
This inflamed and infuriated the Pharisee’s and they thought to put them to death, but for a lawyer by the name of Gamaliel. He had the apostles taken out of the room and warned the council that the people might rebel against them, that it might be better to beat them and command them again to never speak of Christ, and let them go. So they did just that. If they received a scourging, they would have been stripped to the waist and tied between two posts so they could lean forward so the lash would have been more effective. They would have been beaten many times and then released. As they were thrown bleeding back in to the street, they did not mourn, or count life unfair, but they went “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.” (Acts 5:41)
Peter, because he was “willing tosubmitto all things which the Lord saw fit to inflict upon him, even as achilddothsubmitto hisfather.” (Mosiah 3:19)He became Cephas, the rock, whom Christ prophesied that he would be, he strengthened his brethren. He could testify as the Psalmist, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalms 118:24) Even if it is a hard day, if we keep the commandments, we will never truly have a bad day.
So as I close I would change my question to you, from have you ever had a bad day? To; Who is it that Christ see’s you to be. The scriptures tell us exactly that,
“Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it dothnotyetappear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” (1 John 3:22)
And the greatest compliment that anyone, anywhere will ever pay you came from an inspired question the Lord himself asked, “what manner of men ought ye to be?” And answering, the Lord reveled, “even as I am.” (3 Nephi 27:27)
This means that we have to decide, where we will stand, what kind of footprints will we leave on this path we call life, will it be where the Lord places us and asks us to trod, or will it be someplace else, my hope and prayer is that we may fit the pattern that Longfellow spoke of:
Lives of great men all remind us We can make our lives sublime, And, departing, leave behind us Footprints on the sands of time;
Footprints, that perhaps another, Sailing o'er life's solemn main, A forlorn and shipwrecked brother, Seeing, shall take heart again.
Let us, then, be up and doing, With a heart for any fate; Still achieving, still pursuing, Learn to labour and to wait.